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Maui pig worker contracts first Hawaii case of rare flu strain

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 3:14 a.m. HST, Aug 1, 2012

An adult Maui resident who works with pigs contracted Hawaii's first confirmed case of an unusual variant flu strain that has been detected in six mainland states in the last year, the state Health Department said Tuesday.

The state Agriculture Department plans to take nasal swabs of a "couple of herds" on Maui looking for evidence of the H3N2v virus that has been found in 17 other patients on the mainland, said state Veterinarian Dr. James Foppoli. 

"If we find an infected herd, our recommendation is to not move the animals to make sure there's no more transmission in the herd and then they will be OK to go to slaughter once they're well," Foppoli said. "Human-to-human transmission is uncommon so that's not a likely source. You've got to suspect that there's a pig intermediate somewhere along the line where the person got the virus."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last week confirmed Hawaii's first case of the H3N2v virus after the unidentified patientt sought medical attention after experiencing symptoms consistent with the regular flu, including fever, cough, and body aches, the Health Department said.

Because the patient's primary care doctor is a participant in DOH's influenza-like illness sentinel network, a respiratory specimen was first sent to the State Laboratories Division for testing.  

The patient has since fully recovered and did not require hospitalization, the Health Department said. 

The Health Department recommends that people who have been in "close contact with pigs" consult with their healthcare providers if they come down with flu-like symptoms, said Health Department spokeswoman Judy Kern.

She emphasized that "pork is safe to eat if properly cooked. There is no risk at all for properly cooked pork."

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